“She’s Mean to Me!” Part 2

Last week, I discussed some general principles to consider when faced with employees who complain that co-workers are mean to them, criticize them, or exclude them.  This week, I want to set out a coaching approach to try if you’ve decided that coaching the complainant could be useful. 

It’s called the GROW model, which stands for: Goal – Reality – Options – Will.  Its origin is somewhat unclear and it’s been around for years.  Following is a very brief outline of how it works.

Goal.  The first thing you want to do with the employee is set a goal or goals for the coaching. When asked, the employee likely will say something such as, “I want my co-workers to be more friendly to me.”  This is not a useful goal — it’s overbroad and doesn’t focus on what the employee himself or herself can accomplish.  A better goal might be, e.g., “I want to improve my interactions with my co-workers through changing my own behaviors toward them.” (Note: it might take a lot of coaching just to get to a goal like this!)

Reality.  This is where you explore the facts with the employee. The goal is to help the employee really understand what is going on — and what is not going on. You’ll need to get some of the “story” but you don’t want to get bogged down in a lengthy account of every detail or you’ll be there all day. If you’re getting too much story, feel free to gently interrupt and ask, “So what is the bottom line?”

Options. This is where you work with the employee to come up with some possible action steps.  One technique to get the ball rolling is to say, “Let’s brainstorm. You start.”  As options come up, you work with the employee to get them to be specific and doable.

Will.  This is where you turn the best options into concrete action steps that the employee is motivated to take. You ask the employee which option(s) they prefer and when they’re going to start. One technique to help with motivation is to ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you will do this and do it within the time frame you’ve set?”  If the number is low, you say, “How could we turn that 5 into an 8? Are there any obstacles we should address to make sure this gets done?”

Voila — you’ve done GROW! Of course it never goes this smoothly, but it’s a helpful framework. After the meeting, either you or the employee should memorialize the action steps and set another meeting.  In a future post I’ll discuss some of the challenges that come with this coaching approach.

Have you tried coaching this type of complaint? How did it go?  ~Amy Stephson

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